The Spectacle of Rihanna’s Fenty x Puma Show at New York Fashion Week

During New York Fashion Week, brands aim to transcend the
expected—clothes—with spectacle. On Tuesday evening, the number of
Instagram photographs of Ralph Lauren’s collection of sports cars far
exceeded those of the slinky gowns and trim tailoring on display at the
show in his garage, in Bedford, New York. And, on Sunday evening,
Rihanna’s Fenty x Puma show became the week’s most talked-about
event—particularly because Kanye West, without offering an explanation,
opted not to show his Yeezy collection this season—for reasons that
didn’t entirely have to do with what the models were wearing. Last week,
Matt Buyten, a twelve-time X Games medalist from Carson City, Nevada,
and a team of three other freestyle motocross riders arrived in New York
knowing only that they were booked for a gig that required two days of
rehearsal. On Sunday evening, Buyten, who is also known as the B-10
Bomber, hid behind the curtains backstage at the Park Avenue Armory
until his cue, when he sped up a ramp and executed spins above the
audience, at times separating from his bike by several feet of air
before landing on a metal mobile landing strip. “It’s metal to metal,”
Buyten said later. “You miss and you die.”

The collection, too, was shrouded in the kind of secrecy that attracts
attention. Backstage, before the show, I asked Rihanna about what seemed
to be a dramatic departure in her designs; her first three fashion
collections for Puma ranged from goth hoodies to pink frilly sweaters,
but many of her spring, 2018, looks seemed ready for an expedition up a
mountain. “Where did you see them?” she asked, clearly concerned that
information had somehow been leaked. I gestured toward a line of models
milling behind her, and she nodded, pursed her lips, and shrugged. “I
get bored easily,” she said, adding, “I wanted to take it back. You have
to keep the consumer excited.” She wore an olive knit top with corsetry
stitching up the arms and acid-green nylon sweatpants tucked into black
high-heeled boots that extended to the top of her thighs. She had tied a
matching green windbreaker around her waist.

Nearby, two long rows of makeup tables were arrayed with the line of
cosmetics that Rihanna had launched several days earlier. Fenty
Beauty—Rihanna’s full name is Robyn Rihanna Fenty—includes a range of
forty foundation shades, for virtually any complexion, and cases of it
could be seen being unloaded into Sephora shops in New York on Monday.
The makeup artist James Kaliardos, who designed the show’s beauty look,
complimented the makeup; unlike at some other shows, he said, his team
hadn’t had to secretly use other people’s products. He took a brush and
a bottle of Rihanna’s foundation, shade No. 280, and started dabbing it
onto my face, then added a layer of something called Trophy Wife to
complete the look that he called “butterfly,” for its sheen. He stopped
short at doing my eyes. Working with Rihanna, he said, was unusually
freeing. “Her life doesn’t have boundaries,” he said. “You hear it in
her music.”

The hair stylist Yusef Williams summed up the show’s look as “She’s a
badass adventurer.” The models wore helmet heads and sweaty-looking
ponytails. “Get some shine spray and just start spraying them,” Williams
called to his team. “I don’t want any dry hair!” Down the hall in the
cavernous armory, the audience—which included Whoopi Goldberg and her
granddaughter Jerzey; music-industry colleagues such as A$AP Ferg,
Diplo, and Cardi B; and Rihanna’s grandfather Lionel Braithwaite, and
mother, Monica Fenty, and tiny niece, Majesty—took selfies in front of
three hundred thousand pounds of sparkling pink sand that was piled in
heaps. The clothes were an array of anoraks in purple and acid green
with swimsuits that would have looked athletic were it not for their
corset-stitched leg holes. Sneaker heads made note of the new Fenty
creepers, which came in hot orange, gray, and white. Naturally, when
Rihanna appeared to take her bow, it was on the back of a large

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